Open 2011 – the analysisOctober, 2011
We reflect on a memorable week at Royal St George’s as an old-timer takes the Claret Jug ahead of a clutch of young guns
1 Rickie is the real deal
HE may not yet have won on tour, but it is surely only a matter of time, and of weeks rather than months. Rickie Fowler showed he belongs at this level during last year’s Ryder Cup and at Sandwich he turned in easily his most accomplished Major performance to date, remaining in contention almost to the very end.
The way he flights the ball, how he putts and his generally purposeful demeanour are all signs that here is a Major champion in waiting, and one who can take the game to a new audience. Most of the above also applies to Dustin Johnson. If he can contend in a wet and windy Open then you have to think he will be a real force, too.
2 Royal St George’s was a winner
THERE was much talk beforehand about the capricious nature of the links at Sandwich, and particularly the difficulty of finding and holding fairways such as the 1st, 17th and 18th.
Come Open week and there was barely a word of criticism for the course. Credit, then, to the R&A for their work on those three holes to reshape and widen the fairways. The rain certainly helped in that respect, turning the fairways and greens a shade of green far removed from how they had looked just a few weeks earlier.
The course was prepared and presented beautifully and won countless new admirers.
3 The Americans’ demise has been exaggerated
IT may now be six Majors since they held a trophy aloft, but what was a little bit lost in the aftermath of Darren Clarke’s victory was that five of the top seven at Sandwich were from the USA. Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Anthony Kim and Chad Campbell all contended, while Davis Love, Lucas Glover and Steve Stricker also finished inside the top 15. We Europeans (and especially the Northern Irish!) should enjoy the current success while it lasts, because the Americans will be back – not that they ever really went away.
4 Donald’s Major record does not bear scrutiny
WHEN you become the No 1 in the world without having won a Major, there will always be those who doubt your credentials.
Luke Donald is having a year of years, with three wins to his name already and a bagful of top-10 finishes.
Despite that, he missed the cut at Sandwich and a glance at his career record in the Majors does not inspire great confidence about his chances in this month’s PGA at Atlanta. In total, he has had just five Major top 10s, three of them at the Masters.
Only once has he featured on an Open leaderboard, when he finished 5th at Turnberry in 2009.
He was third in the 2006 PGA won by Tiger Woods at Medinah while he has never contended at a US Open.
5 Tom Lewis is promising – but not a superstar just yet
THERE is always great excitement when an amateur features on an Open leaderboard – and also unrealistic levels of expectation about their chances of staying there thanks to the efforts of Justin Rose and Matteo Mannasero in recent years.
Tom Lewis will almost certainly be selected for next month’s Walker Cup at Royal Aberdeen and will then turn professional.
After that, nothing is guaranteed. He will merely be one of hundreds of young hopefuls dreaming of a glamorous and lucrative career in the game. Most do not make it, and even those that do have to serve their apprenticeship on the EuroPro and Challenge Tours before they can even find places in the likes of Indonesia and Mallorca. Let alone teeing it up at Wentworth and Dubai, let alone playing in Major championships.
That is not to slight Lewis, who has more chance than most, or wish him ill in any way, but merely to point out the harsh realities of life on tour.